University of Kansas

Space Physics and
Plasma Astrophysics

Cassini Mission Overview

The Cassini spacecraft was launched on October 15, 1997. After a journey of nearly 7 years it entered orbit around Saturn on July 1, 2004. Since then Cassini has been exploring the planet, its rings, and its moons, including the deployment of a probe to the moon Titan--a world with an atmosphere sufficient to allow a parachute to land the probe on its surface.

The Cassini spacecraft, composed of the orbiter and the Huygens probe, is the second largest interplanetary spacecraft ever to be launched, due to its cargo of multiple science instruments and an enormous quantity of fuel.

The Cassini mission is an international cooperative effort of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. This NASA/European partnership provides an example of an undertaking whose scope and cost would not likely be borne by any single nation, but is made possible through shared investment and participation. Hundreds of scientists and engineers from 16 European countries and 33 U.S. states made up the teams that designed and fabricated the Cassini spacecraft. At the University of Kansas, two Dept. of Physics and Astronomy faculty members are associated with this mission: Prof. Thomas Cravens, a member of the INMS (Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer) team, and Prof. Emeritus Thomas Armstrong, a co-investigator of the MIMI (Magnetospheric IMaging Instrument) experiment.

Last modified February 25, 2007
T. Hunt-Ward
tizby@ku.edu